Victim's family relives daughter's death 22 years later - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Victim's family relives daughter's death 22 years later

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(WRCB)  --  It's been 22 years since James Ray Ward kidnapped, raped, and murdered Nikia Gilbreath, or Niki as her family called her.

"She was a very kind hearted, loving individual," says her mother, Linda Tucker. "She would be a grandmother now."

For Tucker, the past two decades have flown by, as she waits for her daughter's convicted killer to face the ultimate punishment. She has waited on that day since 1991, when Ward was convicted.

"That sentence came down the day before her birthday," says Tucker.  

Ward lived nearly 20 years on death row, until three judges with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his sentence because they felt he wasn't given a fair trial due to improper communication between the jury and a bailiff.

"I don't think anybody believes that. It's a technicality that who knows how anybody would buy that," Tucker says. "Its kind of a slap in the face to be honest with you."

Ward kidnapped Gilbreath while she was five months pregnant with her unborn son, Garrett. His soon to be sister, Amber, was two-years-old at the time. She was left home alone.

Gilbreath's body was found in an illegal dump site a few days later by a man picking up trash. Her car had been left abandoned on the side of the road.

"Its kind of ridiculous that you could take two murders and one totally uncalled for action and turn it around after all this time," Tucker says.

She believes Ward was given a fair trial, now she wants a fair sentence. "I can't think of any other way to do it. It should of been carried out," says Tucker.

At Tuesday's status hearing, the judge granted the defense 120 days to get everything together before the next hearing. However, its not clear when that will be. Ward remains behind bars in Walker County.

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